“But a normal company would never let a poo reference take pride of place on its patent document. For most healthy companies, patents are simply too serious a matter to allow sophomoric poo humor.”
The purpose of Project Troglodyte is to hunt for bad patents and to show what went wrong. The project is now being continued at http://www.project-troglodyte.org/
It so happens that this mode is not completely unfamiliar to me. This means that I may have insights into the weaknesses of this mode, which might be helpful should anyone ever wish to try to invalidate a patent of this type.
Note that these points are not in any way related to this particular ’002 patent. The same kind of mechanisms seem to be operating in any number of cases, and the ideas here are fully applicable there as well.
The article in bizjournals.com is worth quoting again. “….Several times per year ISF brings together thought leaders across industry and academia for these day long, forward ideation discussions. At times, a specific innovation is created as a result of these sessions. When that happens, it is customary for the individuals who have contributed to the innovation to be credited if a patent application is filed.”“
This may well be “customary” at IV, but I do not believe I have seen such a cavalier attitude expressed elsewhere. The question of “who contributed” is actually a hotly contested issue. (See C.R. Bard v. W.L. Gore & Associates for an 800 million USD case that has lasted 38 years, and is about who should be credited as a co-inventor). Any incorrect names in the inventor list would certainly be interesting in litigation.
Also there seems to have been a long development time for these patents; the ‘002 seems to be a variant/extension of an original idea that was more closely related to personal health monitoring. There are certainly innocent explanations for this in the filing process (applications may have to be rewritten and so on). However, it does leave open the question of just *when* something was invented.
- Are they sure they have the right inventors? In principle, having even one name included incorrectly, or lacking just one name, could mean the patent (or at least some claims) are invalid. The Bizjournals article suggests that IV has a somewhat cavalier attitude toward this aspect.
- If these were made at ideation discussions, where and when were they, and who took part? Were minutes taken? Who invented which claim?
- In general, is all the paperwork in order? Has every inventor signed every piece of paper that needs to be signed? A group filing an application a week is bound to make careless mistakes at some point. Cases can be made or destroyed on small technicalities.
- Are there any anomalies, such as people being on inventor lists when they did not attend a specific meeting at all?
- Was everything in these patents really invented during one day long session? If so, why have there been so many additions and amendations throughout the years? Who has made the additions? Where are they documented?
- If the additions the workshop results were considered just technical steps rather than new inventions, who made that evaluation?
- Are these applications actually the result of multiple inventions? If so, who made them, and are they documented? What claims are owned by what inventor?
The ‘002 patent itself provides a somewhat appropriate note on which to end. The first reference, in a prominent place, is the following:
Figure 1: First reference in ‘002 patent
“Buchanan, Matt: “Twitter Toilet Tweets Your Poo”; Gizmodo.com; Bearing a data of May 18, 2009; Printed on Jul. 1, 2009; pp. 1-2; located at http://gizmodo.com/5259381/twitter-toilet-tweets-your-poo”
The reference does not seem to be cited in the actual document. It has a vague connection with the subject matter, but so could any number of articles, so it is not really clear why it is here in the first place.
It is even less clear why it is here, in first place. The list is in no particular order, and there is for example Agger in the references, so it is not a question of Buchanan being the first in alphabetical order. Someone somewhere wanted a poo reference to be the first thing that hits the reader in the eye.
I would definitely have wanted done something like this in high school. Or university, for that matter. Or, come to think of it, even now. I’m childish. I would love to have to have a poo reference on a serious document like this.
But a normal company would never let a poo reference take pride of place on its patent document. For most healthy companies, patents are simply too serious a matter to allow sophomoric poo humor.
An attitude that is this cavalier toward inventor status and poo humor is a sign that something is just not quite working right. And that makes it increasingly probable that the company will make careless mistakes. A single comma in the wrong place can make all the difference.
What overall conclusions can we now draw from the exercise? (Subject of next posting).